There is a lot of talk about how expensive college can be these days. As you head into your college career, it may help you financially to understand how financial aid and tuition have changed over the years.

College Tuition Rates Have Gone Up

There’s no doubt that college tuition rates have gone up, especially over the last 20 years. This can put further education out of reach for some without the assistance of financial aid. Private schools, for example, may have cost $15,000 in 1997, but are easily well over $40,000 in 2017.

When you look at the past 100 years, tuition has come even further. A great example is Harvard. In 1915, the university’s tuition was $150, which would be about $3,500 in 2015 accounting for inflation. However, costs in 2015 to attend the school was over $45,000! A similar rate increase is shown at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1915, the tuition was $250 or just under $6,000 in 2015 dollars. Yet tuition and fees in 2015 was nearly $47,000.

You Can Apply For Financial Aid Sooner

Prior to 2016, students and their families were asked to compete their FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, after January 1st but before June 30th. In 2016, however, that changed. The FAFSA is now available much earlier, on October 1st of the previous year, giving you nine months to ensure you have all the correct information for federal aid.

In response, a number of schools and other financial profiles, such as the CSS/Financial Aid Profile, have also moved up their dates for federal aid. Students can apply and get responses much faster when it comes to their finances, aid, loan offers, grants, and scholarships due to this change. It also makes it much easier as you can complete your FAFSA at the same time you’re applying to colleges.

What Does This Mean For You?

With rising tuition costs and fees, paying for college can be difficult. There’s no doubt that financial aid can make a college education much more obtainable, whether a student decides on taking out loans or qualifies for scholarships and grants (or all three).

However, with the financial aid applications becoming available sooner, you should also be applying for aid sooner. Colleges, for example, only have so much set aside for loans, aid, grants, and scholarships. Many use the FAFSA to determine aid, so getting that in quickly is important. Delaying could put you out of the running for this money. Completing the packets sooner also allows time for you to correct any mistakes, avoid website errors, and send in any documentation that you may have accidentally missed.

College tuition may have risen over the past 20 years, and even more over the past 100. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t attend! There are plenty of options available to you when it comes to financial aid. New scholarships are coming available every day, grants may be offered to you by your future college, or you may find a loan at a great rate.

Speaking of loans and great rates. Check out College Raptor’s new Student Loan Finder to compare lenders and interest rates!